Highly creative, art-driven, expert craftsmanship, sustainability and a modern eye—all are part of the ethos inside and outside of Marta and David's home in Southwest Portland. The property is dominated by a 125-foot giant sequoia, a remnant of the MAC club golf course that defined their Raleigh Park neighborhood before 1950. Two major renovations have transformed the property; the front yard now features a private swirling-brick patio and native drought-tolerant plantings. The back yard is an urban meadow bordered by a compelling set of living and entertaining spaces.
Before renovation, the front yard featured an ugly swath of outdated juniper, a scraggly lawn, and a ranch fence that shouted, "Keep out!" That all changed in 2006 when Lori Scott was hired to collaborate with Marta and Dave. The couple wanted a more welcoming approach that took advantage of the natural beauty of the sequoia, as well as a private outdoor space for entertaining. Dave especially wanted to minimize the "snout" garage.
Lori drew up an initial conceptual plan and brought on Alfred Dinsdale of Dinsdale Landscaping to help flesh out the hardscape details. The unusual brick patio had a previous life in the 2006 Yard Garden and Patio Show; it was a central feature of Dinsdale and Barbara Simon's amazing demonstration garden. Marta and Dave were impressed with the pictures and agreed to have the watery swirl recreated in their front yard.
The design process was accelerated by Marta's ability to engage the team in a collaborative process. She started by saying she "liked the regular, interrupted by the unexpected." The swirly patio, as well as Marta's words, inspired the brick river, which flows across the regular pathway, "dripping" down the steps, and culminating in the "splash" of the Siberian cypress.
From 2009 to 2012, under Marta's intentional stewardship, the back yard became feral (no lawn mowing!) in memory of the lovely open fields of her childhood in Iowa. In the process, she demonstrated that Bermuda grass grows up to 5 feet tall!
Marta was eager to renovate the cultivated areas of their backyard, while maintaining the beautiful and natural meadow that gave her such pleasure and peace. In 2013, she brought Lori and Alfred back to the scene.
Marta was, at the time, quite ill from terminal cancer. But she was clear about her vision for the backyard. The space "practically designed itself", Lori says. The opposing arcs were drawn from trying to save squares of the best looking concrete. Even though that old concrete was eventually scrapped, the arcs stayed, along with the bridge of slabs, upon which one crosses over from the shaded dining area to the sunny chaise lounges-- perhaps a metaphor for Marta's journey from life.
The backyard's design emphasizes a natural habitat with its grassy movement in the wind, outdoor entertaining spaces and dynamic seasonal changes. The backyard also includes an "up-cycled" paver path, a cool re-built shed, and Marta's quirky fountain built from collected rocks and bric-a-brac. Raised beds allow David to grow tomatoes and other edibles during the summer.
Marta passed away as the project was completed. The garden reflects both her design aesthetic and her love of creative collaboration.